The Covenant Reviews
The mistake I made with The Covenant was thinking that it was a fantasy film or an action film, even though multiple forms of the film's cover art suggested that it would be. In actual fact, The Covenant is quite literally a teen soap opera with random fantasy themes. Of course, the majority of the film obsesses over the former as opposed to the latter for some ridiculous reason and as a result the film is mostly dominated by lifeless dialogue which relies heavily on the cliches of any other contemporary teenage drama.
Frankly, The Covenant could not have less to do with its title. Though the story consistently hints at some kind of dark magical force being at play, it plays off like an afterthought to the ridiculous melodrama which weighs down the majority of the script. The film is far more talkative than it is stylish, and nobody has anything interesting to say. Most of the dialogue pertains to the everyday existence of the main characters and the generic relationships they share, but when it comes to the underlying themes of witchcraft there is nothing to say about that. In the rare case that anybody touches upon these concepts there is barely enough dialogue to actually explain any of it, and what there is comes with no themes of interest to anyone. As a result, the witchcraft in the story is quite arbitrary and almost pointless to the film. I mean, if you actually take away the themes of magic from the story you have a generic tale of teenage popularity being threatened by an outsider. With the addition of witchcraft into the story the experience is ultimately worse because the final product is just as hollow yet the dark fantasy elements suggest that there was more that could have been done with the film which was ultimately never realized.
The Covenant wants to be a modern day tale of witchcraft, but Renny Harlin finds no way to bridge the generation gap between the genre and modern day teenage cinema which leaves the film to play out more like a bad episode of Supernatural (2005-present) than anything else. In actuality, The Covenant would have been better as an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003). Then the conflict between the characters would have a better universe to occur in while audiences would have someone they could actually care about. With The Covenant's one-dimensional and careless teenage characters as the central heroes and villains, there is no sense of establishing any kind of connection to either side of the spectrum.
The Covenant doesn't have any sense on how to implement any kind of dark fantasy themes into its story, but that hardly matters because writer J.S. Cardone doesn't even try. At best, the magical element of The Covenant is just a hook to trick audiences into actually watching the film as there is hardly anything else to help it stand on its own.
Much of the film is just shots of topless teenage boys, few of whom do not have muscular builds. It's not hard to see how The Covenant earned a cult following for its homoerotic undertones as a result. In that sense The Covenant can be viewed as a film entertaining in its badness for the unintentional results of its material. Alas even then it would only be to a short extent because the film obsesses over taking itself so seriously that there is never a moment of any real fun in the experience. I can't help but feel like The Covenant is too much of a version of The Craft (1996) for the 2006 crowd. Both films feature four main characters attempting to live out teenage lives while experimenting with supernatural powers. However, the difference is that The Craft did it right. Even though The Craft is a far from perfect film, it remained focused on capturing audience appeal with a greater focus on exploration of witchcraft while also finding the right gimmicks to bring out of its cast. In The Covenant everyone is as useless and bereft of charisma as each other, and the script does none of them any favours in disguising this. The Craft was a proud guilty pleasure which capitalized on trends of the time, but The Covenant fails to determine what its intended audience is actually interested in and relies on tropes from generic horror films to drive its melodramatic material. The misguided use of a generic rock soundtrack in a story intended to be about witchcraft definitely doesn't help anything. Ultimately, I guess you could say that The Covenant is a 90's film attempting to find an audience in the wrong decade. It would make sense to say that since Renny Harlin's biggest career achievements came from the 1990's, but there isn't even any dying spirit left in The Covenant. Ladies and gentlemen, Renny Harlin is simply a man past his prime as a filmmaker.
But I will admit that the visual style of The Covenant is nice. The colour scheme in the film manages to capture modern day scenery in a rather dark fashion which manages to give it an effectively witchy feeling, and the cinematography that captures it all does it with an accurate horror movie feeling. The atmosphere in the film is completely misguided, but you can tell by the technique in the cinematography that it adheres to a traditional horror film style with its effective use of close-ups and slow movements during the more intensively intended moments. The visual effects in the film are also decent, even though there is little actual use of them. For a low budget film, the visual effects certainly manage to prove detailed and fairly convincing.
Despite the sporadic use of stylish imagery, The Covenant is ultimately an incredibly one-dimensional teenage soap opera with lifeless characters, an unoriginal story, little magic and even less action.
Runny Harlin had to deal with a lot of hard circumstances and did an amazing job despite them.
If you don't know what I mean watch the commentary and special features